Tuesday was a long day for me. I had to run a few errands to start the day, and then hit the Woodward Sports studio. Detroit Lions running back, Craig Reynolds, was going to be a guest on Big D Energy. So I had to be ready to grab quotes. After that, I ended my day running more errands, and then headed home. As I arrived at my house, my phone notifications went haywire. I clicked on one of the many and saw the news about John Madden.
He died Tuesday morning at age 85.
Reading the news, I had several quick thoughts that came to mind. The first one was how shocking it was to me. 85 years is a long time to live. And John Madden, by all accounts, lived a full life. However, his life documentary recently aired. So for him to get his “roses” and exit stage left shortly after took me (and surely many others) aback.
The second thought was more on the spiritual side.
Because of my religious beliefs, I believe there is a heaven and hell. Along those lines, my thought was that Madden is reunited in heaven with Pat Summerall, with the chance to call more games. Those two weren’t the only football broadcasting duo that I grew up with. They were THEE duo. No one came close. In fact, Bomani Jones tweeted something profound shortly after news broke of Madden’s passing. To paraphrase it, John Madden, as a color commentator, set an unreachable standard.
And he’s spot on. No one did it better.
As a young kid watching football with my father, uncles, and cousins, I got excited for any game John Madden called. And that’s because his excitement jumped through the tv screen. He was a teacher of the game. If you didn’t understand football at all, it’s nuances, or intricacies, you got a four-five hour crash course watching any game Madden called.
I had one last thought about Madden’s passing, and it was pure sadness.
“A part of all of us passed away today with the passing of John Madden,” Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said in a statement. He’s absolutely correct. See, I wasn’t alive during Madden’s coaching days. However, as I mentioned, I grew up on his broadcasting.And I also grew up playing the iconic video game, Madden Football.
Between my father, my Uncle Steve, or myself (if I had the money), I had literally every copy of Madden Football released. It didn’t matter which system either. For me, I had it on Sega Genesis, all of the Playstations, and even XBox One. Some of my greatest childhood memories came from playing the game with my cousins and Uncles.
If I was with my Uncle Steve, I’d play a few games against him before he went to work, and then a few hours after he got off. Heck, we’d even have mini tournaments within the family. If I was with my cousin CJ, we’d literally play whole seasons on Franchise mode, sometimes in one-two days.
I cherish those memories and brag about them at times.
As some may know, I grew up in a split household. Mom lived one place (who I was with predominantly), and Dad lived elsewhere (who I stayed with a ton also). That dynamic came with its set of challenges. Playing Madden with family members was an escape from those challenges.
That’s why Andy Reid’s words hit home. He wasn’t just talking out his “you know what” as people sometimes do. Reid’s words spoke to my sadness. A part of me really did pass away with Madden.
Heck, even when typing this, I’m hearing Madden say “Boom, he’s on his back,” probably from Madden 95. And to stay with the video game aspect, I must state one thing. Right now, NBA 2K is the “IT” sports video game franchise. People of all ages, races, and sex know this game. They brag about their MyPlayer (mainly). They’ll play with their homies for hours, either at someone’s house or online.
During the 1990s-00s, Madden Football held the crown as the “IT” sports game. Above everyone wanting to play Madden, everyone wanted to be in Madden. One could argue that the game’s “create a player” function walked so NBA 2K’s MyPlayer could run. Everyone created a player in that game. And besides wanting to be in the game, everyone that played the game of football dreamt of one day gracing its cover. It’s impact can’t be defined it words. Not to sound like an old man, but you really had to be there.
John Madden meant a lot to me in ways I didn’t even realize until Tuesday evening.
Immediately after his passing, I had to text my brother and my cousin Bruce, whom I played tons of games against. We had to briefly discuss it. I went on social media to read all of the kind words and view the tributes. Then I went to YouTube, and watched old videos of his commentary, mostly with Pat Summerall.
Much more can be said about John Madden.
For guys like my father, my Uncles, especially Uncle Chester, who’s a diehard, lifelong Raiders fan, Madden’s death means something different. They grew up watching his coaching and early years as a broadcaster. For me, well, I believe I thoroughly explained his impact.
So to you, Mr. Madden, I’ll simply say thank you and job well done. Rest easy.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.